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In an Instant Reader’s Guide

By Lee Woodruff

In an Instant by Lee Woodruff


Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. In An Instant is written by two very distinct voices–Bob and Lee Woodruff: husband and wife, victim and caretaker, father and mother. How did the use of dual narrative affect your reading experience? What did you gain from getting two sides of the same story? Which voice did you connect with more, and why?

2. Lee writes about the give and take of a marriage–how she and Bob constantly supported each other’s dreams, whether it meant spending months apart, moving all over the world, or taking major pay cuts. Do you and your partner have to make similar compromises? How does it function in your relationship?

3. When Lee first hears the news of Bob’s injury, she writes of her “inner general” taking over. How does this inner general work? Do we all have one? Do we need one? Have you ever used yours? Discuss.

4. Lee had the unpleasant task of telling her children (ages 5—14) about their father’s injury. How much do you tell your children when tragedy strikes? How honest are you? How honest can you be? Is there ever an easy way to disseminate bad news?

5. In the wake of Bob’s injury, Lee was lucky to have her friend Melanie Bloom, whose husband, an NBC correspondent, died on Iraqi soil, to lean on. What is the value of having a friend who really understands what you are going though? Have you ever had a friend who could help you the way Melanie helped Lee? How do friends help us through the hard times, even if they don’t have first-hand experience of what we are going through?

6. How have you comforted a friend or family member when they have had a loss or tragedy in their lives? What is appropriate? Inappropriate? Discuss your own experiences, and compare them to what Lee and Bob experienced.

7. When Bob was injured, Lee was immediately thrust into the role of constant caretaker. How did she deal with the stress and responsibility? How did she learn to care for Bob and her children at the same time? How did she make time for herself? How might you fulfill the role of caretaker in your life? How do you think you would react if placed in Lee’s situation?

8. Lee writes honestly about her struggle with depression following Bob’s injury. When the adrenaline runs out in the wake of crisis, how have you felt? Have you struggled as Lee struggled? What helped you? What didn’t?

9. In In An Instant, Lee and Bob reflect back on their courtship, marriage, and early lives together, knowing that neither of them could have predicted what would have happened later in their lives. What were your expectations of what life would be like when you first got married, or settled into your relationships? And how have those expectations changed over the course of your life? Have you ever been tested in your relationship? Discuss.

10. What happens in a marriage, relationship, or family when someone is altered forever? How does one person affect an entire family’s dynamic? Have you ever known a family who went through an experience like the Woodruffs’? What does it mean when one person is injured so gravely that their personality changes? How can a family (or couple) stay together? Is it always best for them to stay together?  

11. What role does faith play in Lee and Bob’s story? What role does it play in understanding crisis in your own life?

12. Do you think you are prepared for something major to happen to you and your family “in an instant”? Why or why not? Can we really ever prepare ourselves for the unexpected?

13. Not too far in the future, the members of “The Greatest Generation” will mostly have passed away. What will our country be like when there isn’t a generation of men and women affected by the draft, a generation of people who served their country as part of their civic duty? How do you think it will change our perspectives? Our collective memory? Our daily lives?

14. What, if any, experience do you have with our country’s treatment of veterans, especially injured veterans? What can we do to help? What should we do to help? Are war veterans treated any differently today, now that serving the country is voluntary? Discuss your opinions.

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